Flu

Introduction

Commonly known as the flu

It is caused by influenza virus (A ,B and C). Strains of influenza virus that cause the flu may differ from year to year. The common contagious diseases in humans and responsible for outbreaks that occur yearly.

Influenza virus attacks the airways (respiratory tract) in our body including nose, throat and lungs.

Other people can get the flu when they breathe in viruses from the air when the infected person coughs, sneezes and speaks. You may also get the flu from direct contact with infected bird droppings or contaminated surfaces.

Signs & symptoms

The flu is not the same as the common cold because it tends to be more severe. You often miss your work.

Signs and symptoms depend on the severity :

  • High fever (39° – 40°C)
  • Prominent headache
  • General aches and pains are common and can be severe
  • Chest discomfort
  • Cough can be severe
  • Extreme exhaustion early and prominent
  • Fatigue and weakness can last up to 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Sneezing, stuffy nose and sorethroat sometimes present.

Common cold is caused by other viruses rarely presents with fever, headache, fatigue and exhaustion. They commonly present with stuffy nose, sore throat and cough.

Complications

In most healthy person, influenza will go away in 7 to 10 days and the worst symptoms usually last 3 to 4 days.

Serious complication includes :

  • Pneumonia (lung infection)
  • Sinusitis (sinus infection)
  • Otitis (ear infection)
  • Meningitis (brain infection)

Person at risk to develop complication :

  • Children younger than 4 years of age
  • Residents of nursing homes
  • Elderly
  • Pregnant lady
  • People with lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure and kidney failure
  • HIV /AIDS
  • Cancer

Treatment

Good home treatment can help relief your symptoms and reduce complications.

  • Get enough rest, balanced diet and simple exercise to build up your body resistance.
  • Over the counter remedies: In most cases of flu, reduce fever, headache and bodyaches by taking paracetamol.
  • Decongestants and nasal sprays help relieve stuffy nose and pain from swollen tissues behind the eardrum.
  • Take plenty of water or fluids.

If severe symptoms develop, you should see your family doctor or visit your nearest health clinic.

Prevention

  • Avoid crowded place.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Good personal hygiene
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Covering cough and sneezes
  • Vaccination-known as ‘flu shot’ is given by injection and recommended for children,elderly, health care workers, people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, pulmonary diseases, heart disease or immune compromised patients.

FAQ

    1. Is there any specific medication to treat influenza?
      Yes, there is only certain antiviral medications available, indicated for serious condition

 

  1. Is there any vaccination to prevent common cold?
    Childhood immunization programme includes HiB vaccine to prevent severe influenza B virus infection, however  there is no vaccination available for common cold because it is caused by many viruses and not specific like influenza.

 

Last Reviewed : 7 August 2013
Writer : Dr. Hasniza bt. Hasim